After a tumultuous offseason that saw the departure of a coach that collected 10-win seasons like loose change and the unexpected early departure of a quarterback on the verge of shattering every passing record in the books, Ohio State entered the season intent on shocking the world.
It's probably safe to say that the craptacular passing performance put forth in a 24-6 loss to Miami Saturday night was not what they had in mind.
Just a week after surrendering 348 yards through the air to Maryland -- Maryland -- Miami watched OSU quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller go a combined 4/18 for 35 yards as the Buckeyes were held out of the endzone for the first time since a 13-6 loss to Penn State in the suddenly halcyon days of 2008.
The 35 yards through the air matched the lowest production of the Tressel era, ironically coming against another team from Florida, and only compounded matters as Ohio State was playing catch-up all night after Miami quarterback Jacory Harris hit wide receiver Allen Hurns for touchdowns on the Hurricanes' first two drives of the evening.
With Tressel and Pryor gone and three other key contributors suspended for the first five games of this season, we expected a bumpy ride this year, but I'm not sure any of us could have anticipated anything like this.
When Ohio State was stomped by Mark Sanchez and USC in 2008, we could take comfort in knowing that a) the Trojans were absolutely loaded and b) the Terrelle Pryor era -- with all of its hype and expectations -- was upon us.
Today, we're swallowing a defeat from a not particularly great Miami team that did little else beyond their two opening drives, aside from Lamar Miller's superb night (26 for 185) and the quarterback situation is perhaps no closer to resolution than it was at the end of fall camp.
So how did we get here?
After winning the toss, the Hurricanes deferred and Ohio State, led by Bauserman, promptly went three-and-out. On Miami's first play from scrimmage, Miller went 54 yards over the right side with a Bradley Roby pursuit angle preventing a touchdown. It didn't matter. Miami would score three plays later on a three yard pass from Harris to Hurns.
The Buckeyes followed-up with another three-and-out and the Hurricanes took the ball and marched 53 yards on 11 plays, capped by another Harris to Hurns touchdown, again covering three yards, to put Miami ahead 14-0.
Enter Jordan Hall. The junior running back seeing his first action of the season after sitting out the first two games for accepting improper benefits, ripped off back-to-back runs of 13 yards to move Ohio State into Miami territory, before Miller was intercepted on a tipped ball to kill the drive.
No worries -- yet, at least -- as Harris quickly turned the ball back over to the Buckeyes four plays later when safety C.J. Barnett stepped in front of a post pattern. Taking over at their own 35, the Buckeyes again turned to Hall and he responded with 27 yards on two carries, advancing the ball to Miami's 43, but the drive stalled after Miller took a sack (the first surrendered by OSU this season).
The defense, settling in, forced a Miami three-and-out and road the running of Hall and Carlos Hyde to the Miami five before settling for a Drew Basil field goal, cutting the Hurricanes' lead to 14-3.
On the ensuing possession, Harris was again picked off, this time by cornerback Bradley Roby, putting the Buckeyes in business at the Miami 23 with a little under six minutes remaining in the first half. After a roughing the passer call against the Hurricanes, OSU received a fresh set of downs at Miami's 11 yard line. Two runs for four yards and a Bauserman incompletion quickly led to another Basil field goal and although it wasn't the touchdown we all wanted, Fickell's crew had momentum.
Said momentum quickly evaporated after Harris and the Canes marched 64 yards in the final 3:40 of the first half to kick a field goal and stretch their lead to go back up by two scores, 17-6 at the half.
Despite Miller's earlier interception, Bauserman was just 1/9 for 4 yards and Todd Blackledge, Brad Nessler and everyone in America watching the game figured the freshman would get the second half start. Nope.
After forcing yet another Hurricane three-and-out to start the half (and witnessing a missed cut from Hall taking the ensuing punt to the house), Not Broadway Joe trotted out and handed the ball to Hyde three times, resulting in a first down. He quickly followed that up with a scramble for no yards, a duck over the middle and a seven yard sack, forcing Ohio State to punt.
Surely, it was finally Braxton's time to shine, right? Not quite.
After the defense forced a turnover on downs at their own 41 thanks to a Harris fumble on a botched keeper, Miller did enter the game at quarterback, but promptly fumbled the ball back to himself, earning a quick yank from offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.
Bauserman found Jaamal Berry for a nine yard gain, but overthrew Devin Smith on 3rd-and-5 forcing yet another Ben Buchanan punt.
The Hurricanes would punt the ball back and Bauserman returned to throw two more errant Bauserbombs leading to another punt, which Miami answered with a punt of their own at the top of the 4th quarter.
So, Buckeye ball, 12:32 to go in the game, down by 11 and Miller comes on once again. Starting at their own 26, the Buckeyes road the legs of Miller on five of six plays, advancing to the Miami 46, before the freshman was hit from behind on a big run and Miami recovered.
A drive that started so promising ended with youth being youth and that was pretty much that.
Miami embarked on 14-play drive that ate nearly nine minutes off of the clock before Mike James punched it in from the one, putting the final points on the board for the evening.
Miller did come out for Ohio State's final series and managed to more than double OSU's passing yardage on the game's final two plays, hitting Rod Smith for 10 and Hyde for 12 before the clock expired, but the sucker punch to the gut had been delivered.
As frustrating as tonight was, I think it's important to keep things in perspective. We knew this team wasn't going to win every game out and they slipped up in their new coach's first road game. It's fair, however, to ask questions, like what happened to the rushing attack in the second half (Hall had cramps, but just four carries for Hyde?), why Miller was yanked mid-series (thanks for the confidence shot, Mr. Bollman!) and how Bauserman can be so woefully unprepared to lead this team.